Who put the 'o' in Porto Cristo?

One hundred and thirty years ago, a certain Jordi San Simón i Montaner, the Marquis Reguer, signed a document with a grand title. It was grand because it was long: "Project for a neighbourhood of houses that Sr. Marquis Reguer wishes to build on his property in La Marineta which is adjacent to the port of Manacor." The definitive plan was presented on 20 April 1888. Porto Cristo was born. Or was it?

A law of 21 November 1855 and a second one of 3 June 1868 had been crucial. Those laws facilitated the founding of farming colonies. Between 1874 and 1891, several were established. Not all of them survived. The most famous of the colonies that ceased to exist was Gatamoix in Alcudia. In 1876, Henry Robert Waring, representing the New Majorca Land Company (and Majorca was spelt this way), created Gatamoix. It was the settlement for workers engaged in the drying-out and cultivation of Albufera.

Only four of the colonies are still with us. They are all on the coast: Colonia Sant Pere in Arta, Colonia Sant Jordi in what was Campos and is now Ses Salines, Portocolom in Felanitx and Porto Cristo in Manacor. In the case of Porto Cristo, this wasn't its name. The Marquis Reguer founded the Colonia Agricola del Carme, also referred to as Colònia de Nostra Senyora del Carme. The church of the parish of Our Lady of Carmel in Porto Cristo was blessed in 1890.

La Marineta was an estate that the marquis owned. It was sold in 1893 to Llorenç Caldentey Rosselló. By 1895, there was a population of 102 in the colony. The locals were by then referring to the colony with a different name, which owed everything to a legend from the mid-thirteenth century.

Porto Cristo's name has arguably inspired more controversy and argument than any other in Majorca. This is due in part to the fact that there have been six alternatives: Porto Cristo, Portocristo (all one word), Porto-Cristo (hyphenated), Cala de Manacor, Port de Manacor and Colònia de Nostra Senyora del Carme. An explanation that it was given as a result of the legend is true, but there had been no settlement as such until the colony was founded, and the name Porto Cristo didn't exist until after the colony came along.

The legend had to do with a ship that was hit by a storm. The men on board sought refuge and took with them an image of Sant Crist, i.e. Christ, which was offered in thanks to the original parish of Manacor, Nostra Senyora dels Dolors. The legend thus produced the name Porto Cristo, as in Port Christ, but this does require greater explanation.

Prior to the colony, the people of Manacor generally referred either to Cala de Manacor or Es Port. There had been no houses in the second half of the nineteenth century, and Es Port was just somewhere for loading and unloading boats. With the colony founded and the first houses being built, the municipal census of 1890 referred to Colònia del Carme, es Port de Sant Crist. A year later in his guide to the Balearic Islands, Pere d’Alcàntara Penya mentioned Es Port and also Porto Cristo.

But Porto Cristo is not Mallorquín, it is not Catalan and it is not Spanish. So, how was the leap made from Es Port to Porto Cristo? It would seem that it was basically made up by local people who took that old legend, added an 'o' to Port and appended 'Cristo'. The ship of the legend was Italian, and so the place name honoured the legend and what had been passed down through generations of the privilege granted by God of the delivery of the image of Christ.

Postcards from around 1915 show that the name had been given a Spanish touch - Puerto Cristo - but by the 1940s and 1950s Porto Cristo had become consolidated. All the arguments since have not altered this. It is Porto Cristo, but it maintains its link to the original colony and to the parish by celebrating Our Lady of Carmel. The fiestas for the Virgen del Carmen (Verge del Carme in Catalan) are taking place. On Monday (16 July), the image of the Virgin Mary will be taken on a boat. A flotilla will follow from Es Port. 

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